Michael Wolff in USA Today laments the loss of trust consumers once had in businesses. The evidence is clear and substantial, and not limited to a particular sector or industry. In his column, he discusses possible ways to measure and distribute trust indicators, but I believe that’s treating the symptoms rather than the problem.

Public companies have a “fiduciary responsibility” to maximize shareholder value. What with quarterly earnings reports, investors clamor for ever-increasing share prices, unless a company has a lot of cash on hand, in which case they clamor for dividends. This of course propels a CEO toward short-term stock gain, sometimes at the expense of long-term growth. When you’re looking primarily at short-term gain, you can’t help but push aside the implicit value of a customer’s trust, a long-term asset.

Because, dear reader, you’re a small business owner, you are not saddled with such a hue and cry only for money, money, money! This leaves you with the opportunity to focus on both short and long term results. When you think of long term results, you naturally think of creating value for each and every one of your clients which, when delivered consistently, creates trust. This takes a long time to grow, and certainly isn’t going to appear over a quarter or two. But its seeds can be planted and buds nurtured until it grows into a mature tree.

When you focus primarily on creating value, you are naturally focused on your clients’ needs. Since you’re focused on your clients needs, and because you’ve appropriately priced your offerings, you can’t help but succeed. It’s worth taking the time to build trust. It need not be something explicitly measured or polled, but it most certainly must be earned. A shift in attention to the bottom line without regard to customer value/needs is the quickest way to take a chainsaw to that otherwise beautiful, mature tree of trust.

Don’t start that chainsaw.

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